The 73rd annual Tony Awards are Sunday, June 9, where the season’s new Broadway shows are honored. Bridgehamptonite Chad Beguelin is nominated this year for his work on The Prom, a heartfelt musical comedy about four washed-up Broadway stars who descend on a small town to protest the cancellation of a prom after a young woman tries to attend with her girlfriend. Beguelin is nominated for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical, and couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s been really great,” Beguelin says of being nominated. He was with his husband, Tom, when he watched the nominations announced online. “We were sitting there sort of holding our breath, watching it online. They do the first few on TV then switch to online and we were sitting there, waiting!” he says. The show is nominated for seven Tonys, including Best Musical. Beguelin is, of course, no stranger to Broadway or the Tony Awards. The writer has been involved with many high-profile productions, including writing the book and co-writing lyrics for Disney’s stage adaptation of Aladdin, the lyrics for Elf: The Musical, the book and co-writing the lyrics for The Wedding Singer and a play called Harbor, about a gay couple in Sag Harbor. In total, Beguelin’s got an impressive six Tony nominations.
The Prom is the first musical Beguelin’s been involved in that isn’t based on a licensed property. “It was a unique process,” he says. “A producer [Jack Viertel] had this one-line idea and he talked to [director] Casey Nicholaw and Casey came to Bob [Martin, co-writer], Matt [Sklar, composer] and myself and we thought it was amazing. So seven years later, we’re on Broadway. It’s an original musical—we had no roadmap. It was, ‘who are these people?’ Starting from scratch, throwing them out, starting again…it took a long time! It’s been so gratifying because it’s something that feels completely and wholly us.”
One of the things that makes The Prom special is its message of acceptance, told through a hilarious lens. “First and foremost it’s a comedy,” Beguelin says. “The sort of thing that’s been surprising to the writing team is that it’s a big, raucous musical comedy that has a heart and message and at the stagedoor kids come up to us and see themselves onstage being heard. A few have said said they were in the closet and told us, ‘My mother’s right over there and I’m going to tell her tonight,’” he marvels.
Beguelin attributes this to the character of Emma, who becomes an unwitting activist and pioneer. “I’ve wanted to make sure the character of Emma, who is barred from taking her character to the prom, felt like a real person,” Beguelin says. “The other characters are over-the-top comedians and she’s the heart of the show. She helped make sure we stayed grounded.” Beguelin likens the show’s message to the racial themes of Hairspray. “In Hairspray, the main character is a young woman who essentially doesn’t change—she changes the people around her.”
Beguelin and husband Tom have been Hamptonites for a long time. “My husband and I have been coming out to the Hamptons for 25 years,” he says. “Five years ago, we bought a house in Bridgehampton, and we loved it so much off-season that we changed it to our primary residence. We also have an apartment in the city.” While Beguelin is a creative type, Tom is “a financial guy. I can’t add or subtract at all!” Beguelin finds that he works best on the East End. “It’s so relaxing and beautiful in the Hamptons that it’s easy to let your mind be creative. When I was younger, I lived off the city, but now I do most of my writing in the Hamptons.”
Watch the Tony Awards this Sunday, June 9 on CBS.